Did you know that many Americans do not consume the recommended amount of dietary fiber every day?

Unfortunately, a lot of us who are deficient are not even aware of it. Eating enough fiber is important for maintaining weight, lowering cholesterol, improving digestion and reducing the risk of various diseases.

So how much fiber do we really need? According to the national dietary guidelines for adults aged between 18 and 50 years, men should consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber a day while women should consume 25 grams a day. 

"I would recommend aiming for at least the recommended daily fiber intake, but ideally you should include as many minimally processed plant foods in your diet as you can," says Shilpa Ravella, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

Overall, there do not appear to be any serious complications that could occur due to excessive fiber consumption. At worst, you may experience stomach cramps and constipation. And in rare cases, the excess fiber may affect how the body absorbs other nutrients.

In addition, Ravella notes that it is quite unlikely for you to be consuming "too much" fiber as long as it comes from whole foods as opposed to supplements. And going overboard is particularly unlikely when following an American diet i.e. more of processed grains and less of whole grains.

Studies have shown that the average American is not getting enough dietary fiber, consuming only about 16 grams per day which is way below the recommended intake. While awareness about the benefits of fiber has risen, many consumers have expressed confusion as to where they can get their fiber from.

Broadly, there are two kinds of dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble fiber. While the former helps reduce cholesterol and glucose levels, the latter promotes contractions of the digestive tract to ease the elimination of waste from the human body.

You can find both types of fiber in many plant-based foods including green beans, nuts, peas, sweet potatoes, fruit skin, and more. Given how healthy these options are, it is not surprising that research has found a strong link between adequate fiber consumption and good health.

Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Westmead Institute in Australia, led one such study which linked a high-fiber diet to healthy aging in more ways than one.

"We found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up," she said. "That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability."